Councilman James Horning, running for District 1, and Councilwoman-elect Dwendolyn Creecy, running for District 4 and replacing Councilman Chris Hamilton, both ran unopposed and are presumed to be the winners for their respective elections. Horning will be serving his second term, and Creecy will be serving her first.
Horning reflected on his decision to run for reelection and said that he initially announced that he would not be running again.
“I had some hesitation, initially, about running for re-election, because it is a lot of time and effort, and initially I said I wasn’t planning to run,” Horning said. “When you have a family, three young children and a full-time job as an attorney, it’s a lot, but I do have a passion for it.”
According to Horning, he was inspired to run for a second term because of the “privilege” it was to serve the people of District 1. He said that he has been especially touched by the aid he was able to offer his constituents, such as helping someone with healthcare issues.
“It was actually pretty incredible to me some of the things I was able to help people with,” Horning said. “It might sound corny, but a couple of my favorite movies, one of them was a Superman series, and I liked him because he was patriotic, and he was able to help people, and he [was] my hero. Before my dad was my hero, it was Superman, and in this position, that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to Superman.”
According to Horning, several projects that he has worked on have contributed to his decision to run for a second term, referring to efforts to try and create a diversity committee within the local government — realizing that one term wouldn’t be enough to complete all the things he would like to accomplish.
“It kind of got to the point where I was feeling like there was too much good to do, and it was working so well in many different angles,” Horning said. “I think I would have really missed [being a council member].”
One of Horning’s accomplishments he said he was proud to have achieved in his first term was creating ways to get in touch with all his constituents, regardless of how they were able to communicate. He said some of the forms of communication include an email distribution list, phone calls, the Nextdoor app, his website and sometimes even letters.
“I don’t always get a response at the time, but then I’ll hear some people walking [their] dogs or something, and they’ll say, ‘Keep putting stuff on Nextdoor, it’s really helpful,’ or go out of their way to tell me how much they appreciate it, even though they don’t respond,” Horning said.
Another aspect of his first term that Horning said that he is very proud of is the city’s COVID-19 response, explaining that it was an especially tricky situation and that they were “navigating unknown waters.”
“I think overall, the COVID response is something I’m very proud of,” Horning said. “We’ve spent a lot of time and interaction with federal and state officials, and even local partners, but Newark is a very unique location, where a lot of the college students are. And we were very nervous going into the fall, seeing reports elsewhere about how bad it got, to stop in-person classes or send people home, and we were trying to avoid all of that.”
Horning also said he has a few plans in mind for his next term that he hopes to accomplish, such as the development of new businesses and changing codes for developers. According to Horning, these possible changes could make it more simple for developers to get their plans approved, and make Newark more business-friendly.
“I think with some of those changes, we can show that Newark is open and fortunate to have people investing money in our city, to make it better overall,” Horning said. “So, [in terms of] how they do that within the code, I think we could give them clear parameters to work in, and make it a process, so they’re not having to spend a ton of money to get to the point where something gets rejected.”
Another change Horning said he would like to look into is possibly lifting the “Footloose Ordinance,” which prohibits dancing in certain areas in downtown Newark. He said he wants to create a better experience for students, as well as full-time residents.
“I don’t know to what extent students are interested in that, but it’s something people have asked about: ‘Can we revisit the Footloose Ordinance that prohibits dancing downtown,’ and I think the overall experience in town would be better for everyone,” Horning said. “That’s something we can look at that might not be too hard of a lift to get through.”
While Horning already has one term down, this will be Creecy’s first term serving on the City Council. Creecy said she is originally from Philadelphia and has had experience in government positions, including serving in a council at-large and as a judge of elections while living in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.
Creecy said she grew up watching her parents pursue careers in service — her mother was a child advocate for many years, and her father served as a police officer, a firefighter and a paramedic. However, Creecy said that all these experiences are not what actually pushed her to run for city council.
“After [all] of this, in all honesty, I was not in pursuant of a career in politics,” Creecy said. “What made me interested and what pushed me into that direction is my past — and also being a teacher, working as a dental assistant, coming out of California as a teenage mom and knowing the struggles that I was going through and wanting to be a voice for other young women and young men who are going through struggles in their neighborhoods and trying to succeed.”
Creecy moved to Delaware to be closer to her family, but when she moved to Newark, she said she noticed that her neighborhood seemed to be “slightly forgotten.”
“Once I moved to Newark from Becks Woods, I noticed that [the] area where I lived seemed like it was slightly forgotten, to be honest with you,” Creecy said. “I got to know my neighbors and everything like that, and, unfortunately, my house flooded, the roof caved in — and I had bought this house. It was the first house I ever bought. I really wanted to run [away], but if it wasn’t for the City of Newark and the good neighbors of Madison, I probably would have just left the house sitting there.”
Creecy also said that the encouragement she received to stay in that neighborhood got her back into advocacy for children, adults and the elderly. She said in addition to the community support, it felt like the right time for her to run for city council, considering everything that was happening globally and in politics at the time.
Creecy is also the first person of color to be a city council member since George Wilson served in the 1950s, and she will be the first woman of color to serve on council in the entire history of Newark.
“I feel like I have some very big shoes to fill, especially with the gentleman that was in the Newark City Council prior, with him being an activist of 1950,” Creecy said. “I’m quite sure he’ll be looking down upon me to make sure that I make the right choices. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I broke the glass ceiling for women of color and indigenous races, so I’m very proud of that, and I can’t wait to bring our voices to Newark, because there’s a lot of us here, but we’re underrepresented.”
In addition to bringing representation through her gender and race, she also said she is of a lower economic status than the person who would usually fill the District 4 council position.
“Normally, I believe, someone from Old Newark is in my district representing,” Creecy said. “This will be the first time that a lower class to middle class area where I live, around Dickey Park, will be represented by someone who’s been through the same pains that they have.”
Going forward, Creecy said that she has many plans and many issues that she would like to address, some of which include bringing awareness to programs for children to have activities to do in the summer, creating a liaison for the Newark Police Department to call when they need to deal with a situation involving mentally ill individuals and aiding the elderly in her neighborhood by keeping them safe.
“I love elderly people — elderly folks and children, and I want them to be safe in their homes,” Creecy said. “I ran across a situation where a gentleman was being abused by his caretaker, basically beaten up and all of this money taken, and he was elderly and mentally ill. I jumped through so many hoops to get him help to no avail; he ended up going off with the same person, and it breaks my heart; but [there’s] been more than one situation like that in my area.”
Since this will be Creecy’s first term, she said she is looking forward to learning how Newark City Council works and learning more about how she can make a difference.
“I’m looking forward to being taught,” Creecy said. “That’s a big thing. I’m not walking into this position without the education of the position. However, I do want to learn how the wheels turn, and I want to work for the betterment of Newark. I want to make this a great place, not that it already isn’t, but there are tweaks and things that can be made that can make it even better in our communities, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to working with all the district councilmen and councilwomen for the betterment of Newark.”